International Exhibitor of the Year: The Greater Union Organization

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With 464 screens in 54 theaters across  Australia, the Greater Union Organization is the continent's largest, and oldest, exhibitor.

Ross Entwistle, managing director at parent company AHL Entertainment, who has overseen the Greater Union Organization's screen redevelopments, will accept ShoWest's International Exhibitor of the Year honor, which recognizes leadership in the field. Entwistle spoke with Pip Bulbeck for The Hollywood Reporter about the challenges facing the business.

The Hollywood Reporter: How has exhibition in Australia changed?
Ross Entwistle: The investment emphasis in recent years has shifted to existing screens, which are being refined, refurbished and rebuilt in an effort to further differentiate the cinema experience from the home. Technology is also playing a significantly bigger role in the way customers interact with our business, starting with the search for session information all the way to the presentation
on the screen.

THR: Is innovation the key factor in bringing people to the cinema?
Entwistle: One should never underestimate the power of the movies themselves in driving cinema attendance. But in truth, the health of the cinema business is a marriage between the movie and the experience -- and innovation is key to both elements. Historic rises in cinema attendance have tended to coincide with innovation in the experience itself. I have no doubt that the use of digital technology in the distribution and presentation of content, and as a tool for marketing and communication, represents just such a catalyst for growth.

THR: How is the Australian sector meeting the challenges of the digital era?
Entwistle: In terms of d-cinema, there's already a reasonable installed base of 3-D-capable screens in Australia, which continues to grow. As part of the preparation for wider-scale deployment of d-cinema, we at Greater Union, with the cooperation of our studio partners, will be conducting a beta test in our flagship George Street complex in Sydney, where we will fully digitize that complex's 16 screens as part of a major refurbishment of the site. Within the independent distribution and exhibition sector, there is also a significant level of digital activity in the e-cinema realm, most notably illustrated by the recent release of "Death at a Funeral," where a meaningful proportion of that release was distributed and exhibited using e-cinema solutions.
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